Reviews

Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Faust meticulously explores how Americans, North and South, ordinary and exceptional, at home and in battle, coped with death physically, clinically, spiritually, and creatively as the nation's most deadly war overtook them. Faust's calm and sure-handed book has a building power all its own. (LJ 11/15/07) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

This is a readable history of the effect the Civil War's death toll had on transforming American society and the way it looked at and handled death. Faust (Harvard) divides her text into eight chapters covering evocative issues about the war and its dead: "Dying," "Killing," "Burying," "Naming," "Realizing," "Believing and Doubting," "Accounting," and "Numbering." The text flows smoothly but is not trite. Excerpts from letters, diaries, journals, and other firsthand accounts sweep readers up in the pathos of the war's carnage. The accounting is balanced, with both Union and Confederate observations. The magnitude of Civil War casualties transformed US attitudes toward death and dying, especially commemoration. New federal policies emerged regarding accounting for the number of war dead and the identification of remains. Emergency transport services evolved for handling the wounded. The overwhelming need for burial space became a public nightmare and a cause for public outcry. The national cemetery movement evolved from this period, as did the creation of national days of remembrance, such as Memorial Day, along with other regional commemorative days. A highly informative text, well documented and illustrated, with an extensive reference section. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. G. Jeane formerly, Samford University


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Battle is the dramatic centerpiece of Civil War history; this penetrating study looks instead at the somber aftermath. Historian Faust (Mothers of Invention) notes that the Civil War introduced America to death on an unprecedented scale and of an unnatural kind-grisly, random and often ending in an unmarked grave far from home. She surveys the many ways the Civil War generation coped with the trauma: the concept of the Good Death-conscious, composed and at peace with God; the rise of the embalming industry; the sad attempts of the bereaved to get confirmation of a soldier's death, sometimes years after war's end; the swelling national movement to recover soldiers' remains and give them decent burials; the intellectual quest to find meaning-or its absence-in the war's carnage. In the process, she contends, the nation invented the modern culture of reverence for military death and used the fallen to elaborate its new concern for individual rights. Faust exhumes a wealth of material-condolence letters, funeral sermons, ads for mourning dresses, poems and stories from Civil War-era writers-to flesh out her lucid account. The result is an insightful, often moving portrait of a people torn by grief. Photos. (Jan. 10) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Renowned historian and new president of Harvard University Faust grapples with the meaning of death in the Civil War as no scholar has done before. The reality of death defined the Civil War for most Americans more than the promise of freedom, she says. Death touched many aspects of life then, including assurances that loved ones died "the good death," with faith that would bring them to God's embrace, new ideas of heaven as a place of reunion, campaigns to recover bodies for burial, new methods of embalming, means of statistically tracking numbers of deaths, and the creation of cemeteries. Faust follows the bodies from battlefield to grave, backing up her claims with prodigious research. Beautifully written, honest, and penetrating, Faust's book about "the work of death" in fact brings death to life. Anyone wanting to understand the "real war" and its transcendent meaning must face the facts Faust arrays before us. Only then is it possible to know how the republic that suffered so much death gained the means of civic and even psychic renewal through remembrance. Essential.-Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.